Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
It’s no coincidence that the poster for Constantine so closely resembled Chinatown — faces in billowing smoke, the downturned silhouette of each movie’s star, a sickly color scheme.
Though paranormal investigator John Constantine hardly joined the league of extraordinary gumshoes like Jake Gittes, 2005’s Constantine was, at heart, a gritty film-noir detective story in spite of its DC comic-book origins.
Prerequisite gawking visuals were an afterthought, really, and the only sign Constantine ever was a comic was its otherworldly plotline — Constantine (Keanu Reeves) running afoul of a plot by hellish demons to overrun Earth using an ancient spear.
Place director Francis Lawrence in the company of Spike Jonze and Tarsem Singh as music-video directors delivering whoppers for their first forays into film. Mainly a mystery as moody as its protagonist, Constantine leaps from questions of spirituality to demonic beat-downs to fatalist humor with the compelling churn of a hard-boiled B-movie ride. (A small knock: Evil beastie deaths tend to have a been-there, done-Blade touch.)
Still unfairly badgered by many for “wooden” acting, Reeves gives this INS agent for the spectral set legitimate faith-based conflicts and a tragic backstory. Plus, he kills with the classic quip, “God’s just a kid with an ant farm. He’s not planning anything.”
The labyrinthine intersection of doublecrosses is somewhat unimaginative (think Dogma), but what detective story lacks predictable elements? Taking the case of emulating the gumshoe epics before it invigorates Constantine far beyond a comic-book film.